PANTS ON FIRE – Rich Paschall

State of the Union Address, aka SOTU

Let’s get right to the point, something political speeches usually do not do.  The pronouncements made by the occupant of the White House fall into basically two categories: Lies, and True, but misleading.  It is not unusual for political leaders to take a tidbit of truth and spin it into something it is not.  They like to take any positive news and make the most of it. It is another thing, however, to just lie to the American people and expect to get away with it.

Believe me, folks.

Certainly, 45 and his minions must have known that the fact checkers would be scrutinizing everything he said, especially given his history of daily lies.  That did not seem to stop him from telling some whoppers designed to fire up his fan base.  Followers do not care how much he lies, much to the amazement of many Americans and people around the world.

A vast array of news outlets and independent agencies found a long list of falsehoods and misleading statements by the orange one.  Almost all posted a list of lies except one, the state-friendly FOX News.  They thought the others were just “nitpicking” in their comments on Trump’s supposed “facts.”

While I was reluctant to call the following statements “lies,” rather than “false,” “misstatement,” “error,” or “miscalculation,” I decided that “lie” will work just fine.  After all, the SOTU is an address that is planned well in advance.  The WH has an army of staffers.

Certainly, many of them are checking the facts and cautioning 45 not to say anything too inflammatory or incorrect. That did not stop him.  Maybe it is just more of his “willful ignorance,” but whatever it is, he certainly knows better, or should have.

“The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.”

Lie.

The economy slowed in the fourth quarter last year and is expected to show that it slowed even more in January.  Further, a list of countries has shown greater improvement of economies: Poland, China, India, Latvia. Even Greece, struggling economically for many years, showed greater growth.

“We recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions and billions of dollars.”

Misleading.

This is not a good thing as 45 seems to imply.  The US importer pays these extra duties and tariffs.  Usually they are passed along, so in reality, it is the American consumer who is being punished by tariffs.  Even more than this, previously profitable companies are hurting due to extra costs. GM and Ford both claim to lose about a billion dollars each to tariffs.

“My administration has cut more regulations in a short period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure.”

Lie.

Both the Carter and Reagan administrations cut regulations at a faster pace in a number of industries.

“We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs — something which almost everyone said was impossible to do, but the fact is, we are just getting started.”

Lie.

Certainly, the White House has better access to the Bureau of Labor Statistics than we do.  His numbers are inflated and the pace of job growth is on par with a two-year period of the Obama administration.  Don’t tell him that, he will go crazy (crazier?).

“More people are working now than at any time in our history.”

Misleading.

The reason is by sheer numbers.  There are more people living here “now than at any time in our history.”

“The border city of El Paso, Tex., used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities.”

Lie.

El Paso did not have a high crime rate.  Prior to the 2008 border barrier, they were second lowest among cities of similar size.  It is about the same today.

“As we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States.”

Misleading.

Many plan to stay in Mexico due to new policies there regarding visas.  Some said they will try to enter the US. They did not say they would try “illegally.”

“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.”

Lie.

“Cheered with delight?” Cruel to even suggest this happened. NY state passed a state law to protect the right to choose in case the Supreme Court, now with two Trump extreme right wingers on board, should strike down Roe v. Wade. Abortion after 24 weeks would remain very restricted.

“We had the case of the governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.”

Lie.

Worse than the lie above.

This is just a handful of the false or misleading statements handed out by 45 in the 82-minute marathon.  There are plenty of sources for checking the facts if you think there is any point to it.  If you are to the left of the aisle, you probably figure most of the SOTU was not true. If you are a supporter of 45, you likely ate up every word of it.  It makes you wish the president would go back to the practice of submitting the address in writing.

Sources:

State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong,” http://www.nytimes.com, Feb. 5, 2019.
Dem response to the State of the Union,” http://www.politico.com, Feb. 6, 2019.
Bizarre State of the Union ‘fact checks’ fall flat, as media accused of nitpicking,” http://www.foxnews.com, Feb. 6, 2019.
Trump’s tariffs have already cost Ford $1B; now it’s planning layoffs,” http://www.nbcnews.com, October 8, 2018.
Trump State of the Union 2019: Which president delivered the longest State of the Union? Shortest?http://www.al.com, Feb. 5, 2019.
Intelligence briefers warn of ‘willful ignorance’ on Trump’s part: report,” http://www.thehill.com, Feb. 3, 2019.

EXTRA TOPICAL

What About Obama?  Huh? by Rich Paschall

You may have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, aka the Great Debates of 1858.  Yes, this is history and there may be a quiz at the end so pay attention.

Abraham Lincoln and the incumbent Senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, held a series of debates around the state trying to sway voters on the important issues of the day.  Each hoped their party would control the state legislature, as US Senators were chosen by the legislature, not by popular vote.  Lincoln was well-received at the debates, but Douglas was elected Senator.

We know how it turned out for Lincoln two years later.

Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A . Douglas

Now Lincoln-Douglas debates are mostly a high school competition.  They are “values” debates where students often argue the greater good.

“Solvency” is not an issue.  A debater does not have to know how to implement a solution, just should be better for society.  Of course, he/she will attempt to bring into evidence material from authoritative sources to bolster his/her position.

One of the suggested topics for the coming year is Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.  There is no need to say how this should be applied, but that there are situations when it should or could be.  Historical examples would provide support.  Law and order arguments may be common on the negative.

These debates, like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, are one-on-one.  The first speaker has a set time. The second speaker a slightly longer period, then the first speaker gets a rebuttal interval.  Total speaking times end up the same.  The first speaker may have a plan. The second speaker may have a counter-plan or could argue that no plan is reasonable under the resolution.

Shouting, name calling, unsupported positions all result in a ballot for the opposition by the judge. Contestants must research, write, think, and propose.  Obviously, acting like modern-day politicians would not produce a winner.

So-called debate

Two man team debate, also known as Policy Debate, will propose a resolution where the tactic not only includes interpreting the resolution but also implementing a solution.  Some debaters may have so many points to make that they speak quickly.  The judge will usually take notes to be sure that the speakers arguments flow logically from point-to-point.  Both speakers on each side of the debate topic make a presentation, both are cross-examined.  Then each speaks in rebuttal.  In many leagues, constructives are 8 -minutes, cross-examinations are 3-minutes, and rebuttals are 5-minutes long.

You’d better come prepared!

A topic for next season’s two-man debate will be Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States

The topics for the debate season are often timely and include something prominently in the news.

Debaters must research both sides of the issue as they will be called upon to be on the affirmative or negative, depending on the debate or round within a debate.  In mid-summer, debaters are already starting to study the issues and gather evidence pro and con.  There will be no flippant remarks, insults of opponents, or made up evidence.  General and stereotypical comments mean nothing without support.  Judges will dismiss these comments. and opponents are wise to challenge them.

Because there are obvious “stock issues” implied with any current events topic, it is incumbent upon the debaters to deal with these intelligently.  Bombast and supposition will not do.  Instead, they must deal with the significance of the issue, solvency of the plan they present, the harms of the status quo or the affirmative plan, and the advantages of one side along with disadvantages of the other.

A key part of any debate is “Topicality.” With time to fill in rebuttals and possibly cross examinations too, it becomes important to stay on topic.  With an audience of debaters and judges taking notes, you can not stray into areas that are “Extra Topical.”  There are no random viewers waiting for a debater to pull out stock arguments on other topics or to launch into inane attacks on the opponent.  It’s just critical thinkers judging the merits of the debate.

Why do we bring you this small lesson in the fine art of debate? Perhaps you have noticed that debate is a lost art in the political arena, television news shows, and especially social media.  In the last election, you saw one party presenting something other than primary debates.  Even as an entertainment show, it was generally lacking in substance.  The other side had two candidates who actually seemed to study the topics, but they also found time to present “extra-topical” discussion points.

The presidential “debates” that followed frequently strayed off topic.  One candidate spent time talking about other administrations rather than what he would do as president.  The attempt to belittle your opponent through insults to family and associates may influence some viewers, but it would not work well with debate judges.

On my Facebook news feed, I see “discussions” of a social or political nature often degenerate into a series of personal attacks and Extra-Topical points.  One friend often posts news articles on current social issues.  A person I am acquainted with will usually make a comment on sanctuary cities.

If I point out the topic has nothing to do with these cities, he tells me to wake up!  For him, that is the only topic which really matters.

Another friend likes to engage me in a debate.  I try not to fall for it anymore.  If he says something about 45, I might respond (on topic), “As a former military man, how do you feel about Trump sharing military secrets with the North Koreans or Russians?”

The response is likely to be “What about Obama?  Huh?  You never said anything against him when he was president.”

“Yes, I did.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“You weren’t listening.”

“Well, what about Obama? Huh?”

There is no staying on topic sometimes.  It is particularly frustrating if you are a debate coach or judge.